Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving y'all!! Be thankful. Be happy. Be lovely. Be funny. Be loved. 
I'm so thankful for my wonderful and crazy family.  Especially my precious Lars and my hairy husband. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Spinach Tomato Thin Crust Pizza - Fresh Homemade Pizza Receipe

Spinach Tomato Thin Crust Pizza
Estimated time: 1 Hour
Cook Time: 7-10 Minutes

Here's one of Bob's pizza recipes.  It's delicious!  Fresh, made from scratch dough, baked to a crisp perfection.  He's been making us pizza for years, but now with our new oven, he likes making these Thin Crust Pizzas.  The temperature should be at a minimum of 500 degrees (convection oven), which we can now do!

He made one last night and I documented the process.  If there are quotes in there, that's him writing.

Anyway, here's what you need:
Flour, Yeast, Water, spices, salt, spoon.

The ingredients and amounts are listed in the directions below.  You start with a cup of warm water.  Add 1/4oz (or one packet) of dry yeast (Baker's Yeast).  We usually buy the larger containers, but they can also be sold in single or three packs.

Pour the yeast into the warm water bowl.  Add about a teaspoon or so of sugar.  This will help the yeast activation, and add to the crust rising as the dough bakes.  Stir the yeast and sugar into the water and let it sit for roughly 10-15 minutes.  The yeast will foam.

Bob loves to add some spices and herbs directly to the yeast at this point; garlic, basil, some onion powder, and (if you have it) fresh oregano, rosemary, or a little thyme.  Stir again and let sit for a couple more minutes.

 


Salt is then added to the yeast mixture just before the flour.  "Some people add it only after the first cup of flour, and others a little after that.  My theory is the salt is evenly distributed throughout the mixture if you do it before the flour.  And since it's added seconds before the flour, there's little chance of the salt slowing down the yeast enough to matter for homemade pizza."

Add flour a half cup at a time, stirring.  A whisk can be used at first, but after a couple cups the dough will just become stuck in the whisk.  I use a table spoon.

 

After two cups you'll notice the dough begin to take form, leaving strands as you stir.  Drop the spoon and grab the dough, rolling it into a loose ball inside of the bowl.  Add another 1/2 cup (or more) of flour until the dough is nicely covered and not sticky.



Flour a flat surface (counter-top or cutting board) and begin kneading the dough.  Google that if you don't know how, but basically you'll be folding the dough in upon itself in a rolling fashion.



Knead for about 10 minutes and let the dough sit in a warm place, so it can rise.  I wait about 15-20 minutes.



Grab the dough and begin to toss/pound/shape it into a flat patty.  This is just prep work so you can roll it thin.  Make sure you roll the dough just a little larger than you want the pizza to end up, since the dough will shrink a little as it sits.

Too much dough, so we split it and froze the extra for later.

  


Bob prefers a more rustic shaped thin crust pizza; although he says the preference is due more to a lack of skill at rolling dough.

Preheat your oven to 500+.  "I used to cook at 350, but it should be hotter than that.  A good preheat is important -- let it preheat and THEN some.  Often, an hour is a good mark, but if you're rushed for time on a weekday evening, it can be shorter.  Ideally the pizza should only be cooking for 7-10 minutes, but the lower your temp the longer you'll need."


Sprinkle some Corn Meal or Polenta as a substitute to oiling your pan.
More from Bob: "With regular pizzas, I tend to precook the dough for about 5 minutes, then add the sauce, cheese, and toppings.  NOT WITH THIN CRUST!  The goal with thin crust, as I said earlier, is to slide your pizza in the piping-hot oven -- for 7-10 minutes -- and have a crisp fully cooked pizza.  So prep the pizza fully before cooking."

Pizza Pro Tip! Make sure you place the dough on a tray before prepping it, or you'll never be able to move it to the tray without folds and tears.

  

For tonight's pizza, we decided on a tomato sauce base with spinach and cherry tomatoes, topped with mild cheddar cheese.  We went light on the toppings -- cheese included -- since it's a very thin crust. Plus, with spinach AND red sauce, it'll be heavy enough. The spinach should be below the cheese (or even the sauce), so it doesn't dry out in the oven.

Here's some more (crap...) from Bob:  "I like using cheese slices for pizza.  No shredded cheese for me.  Part of that preference comes from the pizza i ate growing up.  To be fair, some of that was grated, but with commercial graters and shredders that offer a much larger shred size than available in most homes (like a hand grater or sled).  My theory is the larger slices or shreds offer a density that you can't get with shredded cheese, so the heat cooks (and dries out) more of the cheese on a shredded pizza.  On pizza with slices of cheese, the cheese retains it's flavor and is not dry.



And, lastly, it's very important to have either a beer, wine, or vodka while making the pizza.



8 minutes in the oven...

  

Here's the finished product:

Lastly, Bob wanted to recommend his Beer Battered Soft pretzel Recipe.  He wrote up the recipe on an OLD blog of his.  He said to apologize for the outdated stuff, but you can find it at Beer Battered Soft Pretzels.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

The nook is finished!

Well, for the most part  -- but entitling this The nook is finished, almost seemed a bit uninspiring. The last step is to get a bench cushion made thanks to my aunt who was sweet enough to say yes to making one.  I just have to find a piece a foam big enough and some fabric and she's going to cover it. Right now I have a couple of body pillows and some throw pillows.  Lars doesn't seem to mind. We are also going to add some shelves and hooks on the sides to allow for more storage and to hang coats because I realized that coats were the one thing I do actually hang in the his closet.

What we thought was going to take 2 weekends to work on took 4 but that's the way things go around here.  We've come to accept it.  Between us both working, having a 19 month old, the holidays, and everyday things most projects at our house go well beyond the expected finish date. I told Bob we should just start allowing ourselves an obscene amount of time to do something, like 10 weeks to finish the closet the nook and then when it only takes 4 we will feel amazing and super accomplished.

For the nook, we used all cedar fence pickets.  Some we had around and here and the others we (like always I mean Bob) purchased at Lowes.  I was on the fence about painting the wood lining the back of the closet.  After Bob drilled all the pieces in I went back and fourth looking at it in it's natural state and I really like it.  I'm not one to use a lot of color when it comes to paint.  I don't fear it, I'm just not a fan.  Generally, if I paint something a color it's only a matter of time (I'm talking a few months) before I grow tired of it and want to do something else.  I also find neutral colors and natural woods are just easier to compliment when choosing decor and textiles.  I was close to leaving the wood unpainted but I decided that I wanted to the nook to be fun, child like and boy-ish.  Lars' room is white with lots of natural wood and pops of color. I love it. But for the most part it is very neutral so I made the nook super vibrant and fun.  I really like it. I had all the paint from all the colors I tried on the double doors and decided to make it work.  We didn't want to spend a bunch of money on this project and we didn't!! Yay!  In total I would say it cost us about $40-$45.  Not too shabby.  Also, the labor was free too.










Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bath time Yoga

It's Truthful Thursday Y'all and before you jump to conclusions, let me clarify that I don’t do yoga in the bath tub nor do I take baths (unless I’m pregnant and I’m not pregnant…so no baths.  I do include a little yoga when I’m hanging out with Lars while he’s in the bath tub though.   Funny side story, I was attempting to take a picture of this for y’all last night and between the water, trying to do a pose and take a picture and making sure my son stayed seated in the tub it was not happening, so just use your imagination on this one please. I was going to have Bob do it but that would just ensue a huge fit of laughter from him and bath and bed time is Bob’s time to finish up any work so we can hang out after Lars is asleep.

Lars loves his baths so we’re in there for a good 20 minutes most nights so I utilize it to sneak in some stretches. This is not wear fancy yoga clothes, use fancy yoga mat, listen to fancy zen music kinda yoga.  I’m usually singing the ABC’s, making silly fart noises (because farts are now very funny in our house) or pour water over Lars’ head while in warrior pose.  I usually stick to exercises that require me to be on the floor, that way I can interact and talk to Lars.  He also thinks it’s really funny when I do something with my leg in the air or when I pour water on him while stretching.  I will also use the edge of the tub to do arm dips and push aways.  With each dip I sometimes get a kiss from the cute little bathing boy.  If you tell Lars to do yoga he will lie on the floor on his tummy and move all around with his legs in the air.  Funny stuff.

If all goes well I will try and squeeze in another 20 or so minutes of exercising after I put Lars down but a lot of times it creeping up on 8 pm and I’m sort of crazy about eating before 8.  Once I eat dinner I am pretty much completely worthless so I try to get everything done before then.   Making it work. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Propane and Acorns

A few weeks ago it got pretty cold in our neck of the woods (literally, in the woods) and the heater in our home had been on pretty steadily for a few days.  One afternoon I walked in from work and was greeted with a slight smell of gas. Lovely. I asked Bob what the deal was and well..............NEWSFLASH Ashley & Bob....you have to periodically check the propane tank to make sure you don't run out. We ran out.  No propane and it was 5 in the evening.  Luckily, the temperature was only dropping into the low 50's that night, so we ran a space in heater in Lars' room up until bedtime and put him in his flannel jammies and kept our finger crossed that it he would be comfortable.  The baby monitor we have has the temperature on the screen and it shockingly stayed pretty cozy in his room.  Our room with huge double doors to outside did not stay so cozy.  We pulled out our big white fluffy comforter, pj pants and long sleeve shirts and each had a cat sleeping on us to keep warm. It really wasn't that bad but I'm just always cold at night so I was a little bit whiny. 

Also, a few weeks ago while Bob and I were laying in bed we heard a really loud clanking noise and it kind of freaked both of us out a little bit.  It was super loud.  We checked on Lars, checked on the cats, checked in all the rooms and nothing looked like it had fallen so we just got back in bed.  Then, we heard it again, several times.  Bob got up and went outside and was wondering if maybe an animal had gotten on the roof but he didn't find anything.  We went to sleep not knowing what it was.  The next afternoon we were playing outside with Lars and kept hearing the same noise and quickly realized that it was acorns falling from the oak trees on the metal roof.  We both laughed because, duh what else would it be?  It's been happening a lot lately and it is very very loud and echos throughout the house with the metal roof.  The acorns drop then roll down.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Weekly Menu 11-18-13

Again....a day late. It's just the way it works :)  I'm pretty excited about this weeks menu!!  I will keep you posted!

Spicy Malaysian Noodles
Lasagna Rolls (bringing these bad boys back)
Oven Baked Mexican Aquino Casserole
Spicy Potato Curry Salad

Parenting Style

I never knew there were so many parenting styles before I became a parent and boy was I completely inundated with numerous styles and techniques right after giving birth.  As if I wasn’t overwhelmed enough…I now had to decided what kind of parenting was going to work for us.  Geez! Permissive parenting, attachment parenting, authoritative parenting…yadda yadda yadda.

I read book after book after book.  All from different authors, all different types of parenting and I think Dr Sears, Robert E Larzelere, Elizabeth Pantley, Harvey Karp and Kim West (just to name a few) all helped us along the way…..they helped us figure out what type of parenting we were going use.  It’s called the ABP style and it’s the Ashley & Bob Parenting technique.  It’s a customized parenting technique that works for our family and YOU can have your own customized parenting style too!!

Ok, in all seriousness that’s not really a type of parenting in case you were wondering…I just made it up, although it kind of has a nice ring to it, right?   We realized quickly that Lars did not fit any one mold or type so trying to follow one certain type of parenting style seemed completely contradictory.  We had to put the books down and embrace parenting Lars, embrace the mistakes we would make and embrace the untouchable love that makes us good parents.  

We parent out of love and we parent out of respect.  Love leads us to always protect and want the best for Lars and respect allows us to recognize him as his own person and remember that he is a little human also that needs boundaries and has real emotions and feelings.  We do the best we can and call me sappy but I DO think love is enough because out of love will come the skills and understanding to help your child along the way.

Holding yourself to one type of parenting style can be very overwhelming and stressful because the second you drop the ball on one thing, you start to feel a bit like a failure.  At least that’s how it was for me.  Trust your instincts and know that what works for the babies in the books may not work for your baby.  Know that it’s OK to stray from the books.  Know that it’s OK to try something new or something you wouldn't normally try.  

I remember being so upset and distraught when we realized that Lars was not a good co-sleeper, in fact he was quite the opposite. Lars was so much happier sleeping by himself in a crib...we saw a complete change in his sleeping habits after just a few days (good changes).  It was as if we were cramping his style, in his way and bothering him when he was in bed with us.  Lars slept with us until around 7 months and to be honest I wish I would have tried the crib long before that time.  I think we would have all been a little more well rested.  I was so hard on myself about cloth diapering, breastfeeding, using a pacifier, taking a bottle, starting solids, and baby wearing and all that hoop-la that I was missing out on actually being a parent and being a mom to this wonderfully delicious little baby. Some of those things worked out great for us and some didn't but why was I so concerned with them?  Because I ready about them, I heard about them, they sounded lovely but were they really working? Once I put all the books away and just did what felt right and started living in the moment, was when I really truly became a mother. I trusted myself to make decisions, not based on a book but based on my natural motherly instinct and it was the best things I could do.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Family Photos

For the first time ever since Lars was born we had a photographer come to the house and take family photos.  I asked our photographer from our wedding and she gave us a great deal and was wonderful with Lars.  It was kind of a crappy day as far as weather and Lars was not in the best mood but you wouldn't know any of that by the pictures. They are lovely and I love them so much! So glad we decided to do it.
















Crappy Double Doors

We have double doors leading into the office and the loft area. the doors are a little funky as in they look a little cheap, feel a little cheap and have been painted too many times to count.  My original plan was to replace them, then it was to get rid of them all together and have no doors. Bob was not in favor and since it’s his office I obliged.  So then, I went back to the idea of replacing them but over time I've realized that I’d like to spend that $500-600 bucks on something more important, so I was determined to make these old doors work. 

Our home has a very rustic and southwestern feel to it so I wanted to play that up and paint them a cool, dare I say fun color.  The walls in our home are all white plaster (which is actually a feature of the house I really like) and I thought a pop of color would look nice and mesh well with the southwestern feel. I knew I wanted to stay in the blue family but I had no idea what color blue and so I painted one of the doors at least 3 times before I finally got to a color that worked.  

The left side is the color they were when we moved in.  The color on the right was the second go at a color and it stayed this way for a while because I got frustrated with it and couldn't decide. 

primed

first coat

ta-da!!!! 



Next step is to clean the panes and get any paint off of them and change all the hardware and hinges.  I'm thinking something like an aged bronze.  The color of the paint is Valspar Deep Twilight Blue.  I kinda love it.  The dark color really helps camouflage all the imperfections and there are a ton so yay! The lighter colors just didn't feel right.  I've found that with such a rustic home it's easy to cross over into crafty country decor which I'm not a fan of and that's how I felt with the turquoise. I like to keep it more modern rustic and I think the darker color conveys that a bit better. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Pasta

Simple, check. Quick, check. Inexpensive, check. Delicious, check.  This dish gets 4 stars from me!  It will definitely be made again in our little abode. I made this on Bob's actual birthday (Wednesday) and was a little worried that it wasn't going to be anything great or special, but it looked like the easiest and quickest dish on the weekly menu and that's what we needed that evening.  It turned out to be fantastic and Bob loved it!  I didn't have any fresh basil so I used dried, I also added some fresh sage and chopped spinach.








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